Help, the Toilet Backs up Into the Tub! What Should I Do?

Help, the Toilet Backs up Into the Tub! What Should I Do?

If your toilet backs up into the tub, you need to respond quickly and properly. Read this article to help you get through this and stop any more damage.

Between 4 and 32 million acute gastrointestinal illnesses occur in the US each year. In many of these cases, contaminated water is to blame.

Exposure to untreated wastewater is one of the top contributors to these illnesses. After all, as many as 100 different types of viruses are present in wastewater. That’s on top of the many other pathogens, such as bacteria, that it contains.

That said, if your toilet backs up into your tub, know that the water rising out of the tub drain is wastewater. Unless it’s spewing out sewage too, it’s not a major cause of panic. You do want to get that resolved as soon as possible though, as that water likely carries pathogens.

Ready to learn all about the top fixes for this issue? Then let’s get right into it!

Why Wastewater From the Toilet Backs up Into the Tub or Shower Drains

A toilet that flushes properly should direct wastewater into the sewer line. The sewer line then delivers the wastewater into the main sewer line or “sewer main”.

If you see used water from the toilet backing up into shower or tub drains though, that’s a sign of a clogged sewer main. Since something is blocking the wastewater, it has no other choice but to back up. Since your toilet is set higher, the water is more likely to rise out of the lower tub or shower drain.

The Common Culprits Behind Clogged Drains and Mains

As for what exactly causes those blockages, below are some of the most common.


Fats, oil, and grease (FOG) are among the most common culprits behind blocked sewers. You may be pouring them down the drain in liquid form, but once the temperature drops, they’ll freeze. Once they solidify, they can block the hollow interiors of your sewer pipes.


It becomes worse once you add food debris and hair to the mix. Keep in mind that on average, a person sheds between 50 to 100 strands of hair in a day. Many of these strands get sucked down into drains to form clog-causing hairballs in pipes.

Hard Water

In the US, 90% of homes have to settle for hard water. That’s water that contains a lot of dissolved minerals, such as calcium. Over time, this can cause clog-causing limescale to form on the inside of plumbing pipes.

Unfortunately, many of these homes are in Michigan. Kalamazoo, for instance, has water that’s twice as hard as what they get in Grand Rapids. Flint, MI also has hard water, as it’s 70% harder compared to lake water.

Either way, having hard water can be contributing to your clogging problems. In this case, once you’ve addressed the existing clogs, you may want to install a water softener. This can help keep future clogs at bay.

Your First De-Clogging Option: Plunging the Clog Away

For smaller, minor clogs, a toilet plunger that has an extension flange may work. The extension flange helps give the plunger a snugger, better fit on the jet hole and the drain hole (outlet).

Before you place the plunger in the toilet, make sure you don at least a face mask and gloves. It’s best to wear an old shirt too, in case you get splashed with toilet water.

Once you’re ready, extend the rubber flange of the plunger. Then, position the bell-shaped rubber end of the tool over the bottom of the toilet bowl. There should be enough water that covers the entire rubber end of the plunger.

The first push should be a gentle one, as this helps release all the air from inside the bell. If you thrust too hard, the air might escape from under the seal and splash you with toilet water.

After the first gentle push, it’s time to exert more serious effort over the plunging action. Give it about 15 to 20 thrusts.

Now, try to flush the toilet again and see if it does its job properly or if you still have water backing up in the shower. Hopefully, the plunger did the trick, but if not, then it means that you have a bigger clog.

For Slightly Bigger Clogs: Snake Them Out

A drain snake, also called a “plumber’s snake” or “auger”, can help remove bigger clogs that a plunger can’t. These come with a long cable, one end of which can have a blade, a corkscrew, or a hook. This is the end that you insert into the toilet and use to cut through, dislodge, or snag clogs.

If you don’t have one of these handy tools, now’s a good time to get one. Even if it may not help this time, it may help you unclog smaller drain and toilet clogs in the future.

It’s a little trickier to use than a plunger though, and you need to be careful as you insert the snake down the toilet. The sharp end may scratch your toilet’s finish, or worse, injure you.

Once the tip is inside the toilet, carefully crank the tool’s handle until you feel resistance. This is likely the tip of the snake reaching the clog. Depending on the type of auger you have, you may have to keep cranking to dislodge the clog or crank it back to snag it.

After removing as much of the blockage as you can, try flushing your toilet. Hopefully, you won’t see any more toilet water or sewage backing up into the shower.

Call for Emergency Back-Up

If the plunger or snake doesn’t help, it’s time to call in a toilet repair expert. It’s possible that you have bigger as well as multiple clogs. This is especially true if your problem involves both the toilet and shower backing up.

Aside from the usual causes of clogs, tree roots may also be choking your sewer main pipes. The best way to confirm this is through the use of special plumbing cameras. Your Michigan drain experts will use these tools to assess the health of your plumbing pipes.

Get Your Toilets and Tubs Back in Great Working Condition

There you have it, your guide on what to do whenever a toilet backs up into the tub or shower drains. Just remember to wear protective gear in case you’re going to try out a DIY fix first. This way, you can keep safe from the potential pathogens that may be in the toilet water.

If none of the DIY tricks work or you have multiple plumbing clogs at home, know that we can help. Give us a call now so we can come to your rescue and prevent more back-ups from happening!